Which Way to Heaven?

 

Which Way to Heaven?
Matthew 7:13 14
 
In chapter 7 of Matthew, the Sermon on the Mount which began in chapter 5 comes to a great climax. That climax is stated in these two verses. The remainder of the sermon to the end of the chapter simply is an expansion of these two verses.
 
Listen as I read them.
 
That is a provocative statement by our Lord. That is really the point to which He has been driving in all of the first part of this great, masterful sermon. He brings the whole thing to the climax of a decision, a choice.
 
Two gates which bring the individual to two roads which lead to two destinations which are populated by two different crowds. The Lord, then, focuses on the inevitable decision that has to be made regarding that which He has been saying.
 
From the time of our life when we are old enough to make an independent decision or any decision, life becomes a matter of constant decision making. Every single day of our lives we make decisions, about everything. We decide what time we'll get up or if we'll get up in the morning. What we'll eat, wear. Where we'll go, what we'll do. Constantly life is a matter of decisions.
 
In reality, we are just picking roads all the way through life and so it is fair to say that life consists of man at the crossroads. Ultimately, and inevitably, there is a final choice.
A choice that not only determines time but a choice that determines eternity. That choice is the one to which our Lord speaks in these verses. The ultimate choice.
 
Now it has always been God's effort to bring man to the making of that ultimate choice. There's always an option so that there's always a choice. And the choice that is ultimate is the choice that God is most concerned about.
 
All the way back in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were confronted with a choice. Don’t eat what God said leave alone, and everything will be fine. You will live in a perfect environment in the presence of God. Choose to disobey Him, and you will die. Life or death?
 
Through Moses, God confronted the children of Israel in the 30th chapter of Deuteronomy and said this; "I have set before thee this day life and good and death and evil. Therefore, choose life that thou and thy seed may live." God gave to the people of Israel the ultimate choice, life or death, good or evil and called for a decision.
 
Joshua who followed Moses as the leader of the people of Israel as they entered the promise land in the 24th chapter of Joshua and the 15th verse said this; "Choose you this day whom you will serve whether the gods of your fathers or implied the true God, as for me and my house we will serve the Lord." Again the choice.
 
 
 
Jeremiah heard God say in chapter 21 and verse 8, "Unto this people shalt thou say, thus saith the Lord, behold I have set before you the way of life and the way of death."
 
Elijah on Mount Carmel called for a decision in I Kings chapter 18 and verse 21, he said: "How long will you halt between twoopinions? If the Lord be God follow Him, if Baal, follow him."
 
The ultimate choice. In John chapter 6 we read that many followed Jesus, many called themselves disciples but in John 6:66 it says that many of them turned their backs and followed Him no more. And Jesus said, "Will you also go away?" And Peter said, "To whom shall we go? Thou and Thou alone hast the words of eternal life." Peter articulated his choice. Some walked away and some stayed.
 
Jesus becomes the crux of every man's destiny. The choice is made at the crossroads of Christ if you will. Choose life or choose death. Essentially that is what Jesus is saying here, in Matthew 7:13 and 14.
 
He says a choice must be made. And when we come to Matthew 7:13-14, it’s “make up your mind” time.
 
A deliberate choice has to be made. Christ came to bring a kingdom, He was a King, He was THE King, He was THE King of Kings. And He came with a kingdom that was unique and special and separate and different from all the kingdoms of the world. And men would not understand His kingdom unless He articulated its principles and so in this masterful sermon He has articulated the principles of living in His kingdom.
And now He gives us the choice to either enter it or stay out of it, that's the choice He wants every man to consider. He demands a response. You know now the qualifications of the kingdom. You now know the standards of the King.  What is your response? What is your reaction? That's the issue.
 
And the choice is very clear. There are only two choices, the narrow way and the wide gate. There are no other alternatives.
 
Some people say, "Well how in the world could Jesus make such a clear-cut issue about religion when there are so many religions facing man?"
 
Listen to Oprah and she will tell that Jesus was wrong; there are many ways to God. But that’s not true according to Jesus. There's just the true and the false. There's just the right and the wrong, that's as simply stated as I can state it.
 
In fact, all the way through the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is contrasting true religion His standards and false religions the religion of the day, the religion of man. The contrast is between divine righteousness and what it demands and human righteousness and what it demands. The contrast is between Christ and the Scribes and the Pharisees. There's only two.
 
Now, let me add a footnote on that. The contrast here, and I want you to understand this or you'll never understand the passage, the contrast is not between religion and paganism. And I've heard so many people use it that way; that the narrow way is the way of Christianity that goes to heaven and the broad way is the drunken orgy that's going to hell.
That’s not it. It is not a contrast between Godliness and Christianity and irreligious, pagan people, godless, immoral masses on their way merrily to hell. It is not that.
 
It is a contrast in two kinds of religions. Listen, if you look at the directional signs, both will tell you that this is the way to heaven. You’ll never find a road marked “This way to Hell”. Satan doesn’t work like that. That's not very deceiving. It is not a contrast then between religion and paganism. Rather it is a contrast between divine righteousness and human righteousness, between true religion and false religion.
 
The Pharisees problem is indicated to us in Luke 18:9 when it says; "The Pharisees trusted in themselves that they were righteous." That was their religion. And that was inadequate.
 
Every man makes a choice. And the choice is this, either you're good enough on your own or through your system to make it to heaven or you're not and you cast yourself on the mercy of God through Christ. Those are the only two systems of religion in the world. Now you may see around the world, ten thousand different religious names and terms but there are only two religions in the world.
 
There is the religion of divine accomplishment, God has done it all in Christ. That is the religion of Grace. And there is the religion of human achievement where we do some of it and that is the religion of works.
 
Either you need a Savior or you don’t. But those are the choices.
And tragically, most of humanity is on the road of human achievement believing they can reach heaven  through their own good works and good deeds.
 
That's the contrast. Jesus is saying, look, there are two roads marked to heaven, one is the narrow road of divine righteousness the other is the broad road of human righteousness.
 
And the rest of the Sermon deals with only that:
 
The choice is clear. There are two gates; the wide and the straight. There are two ways; the broad and the narrow. There are two destinations; life and destruction. There are two kinds of travelers; the few and the many. There are two kinds of trees; the good and the corrupt. There are two kinds of fruit; the good and the bad. There are two builders; the wise and the foolish. There are two foundations; the rock and the sand. And there are two houses and there are two elements to the storm that He discusses.
 
In other words, the clear-cut decision is the whole issue at the climax of the sermon. And Jesus is demanding a choice. He forces us to a decision..
 
There are four contrasts I want you to see in these verses.
 
1. Two Gates
 
Enter in at the narrow gate for wide is the gate. Then verse 14, "because narrow is the gate." Two times He mentions the narrow gate, once He mentions the wide gate. Two gates--only two. Both roads, as I said, promise salvation. Both roads point to God. Both roads point to the kingdom. Both roads point to glory. Both roads point to blessing. Both roads point to heaven. But both roads don't go there. One is self-righteousness and one is divine righteousness.
 
Now, before you get on the road you have to go through the gate. So the gate comes first.
 
Let's look, first of all, at the narrow gate.
 
And this is basically the key to the interpretation.  
 
The first thing I see in verse 13 is you must enter. Did you get that? There's a sense of urgency here. It demands a point of action right now. Do it now, enter now. This is the time, this is the moment, this is what God is calling for. You must do this. It is not an option. It is a command, and absolute command.
 
Now keep in mind, the Lord Jesus has been teaching them a very narrow way of life. The Pharisees, on the other hand,  had all kinds of tolerance for sin. They had all kinds of laws beyond the law of God. They had all kinds of standards beyond the standards of God. They had invented a system that was manmade and was far reaching and all of these kinds of things were part of their system.
 
And Jesus said you've got to get rid of that, you've got to get rid of that because the kingdom of God is like this, and He narrowed it and narrowed it and narrowed it down until by the time He came to chapter 7 verse 12 He had presented to them a very refined and confined approach to living to the glory of God.
 
So if they had been listening, they got the picture that it was a very narrow prescribed way. He didn't drag up all the stuff of the rabbis He just nailed down the specifics. And so they got the picture. Compared to their system it was very narrow, very prescribed.
 
And Jesus says, you must enter this narrow way. If you're going to be in My kingdom, you've got to come on these terms. He demanded immediate action.
 
It is not enough to listen to preaching about the gate, it is not enough to admire the ethics, you've got to enter it.
 
Second point, not only must you enter, you must enter the narrow gate.
 
There is also a wide gate, but He doesn't say to enter that one because it leads to destruction. If you are going to be in the kingdom you've got to go through this gate. Now that's very narrow, isn't it?
 
People say, "You know, Christianity doesn't give room for anybody else." That's exactly right. We don't do that because we're selfish or we're proud or we're egotistical. We do that because that's what God said. If God said there were 48 ways to salvation I'd preach all 48 ways of them. But there aren't. "Neither is there salvation in any other for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be," what? "Saved."
 
None other name. Jesus - Acts 4:12. "I am the bread of life ... I am the way the truth and the life ... I am the door ... anyone who comes in any other way is a thief and a robber," John 10.
"There is," I Timothy 2, "one Mediator between God and man ... the man Christ Jesus." only one, no other name, Christ and Christ alone, it is that narrow, it is that prescribed. There are no alternatives.
 
Thirdly, you must enter, you must enter the narrow gate, and you must enter alone.
 
I think this is implied in the text. If you study the term narrow you get the idea that single file. In fact, many commentators would say that the best expression of this in a contemporary way would be a turnstile. One of those things which you have to go through all alone, the metal is very close and there's a little arm there that you push and you go through.
 
If you go to the zoo or museum or something, sometimes they have a turnstile like that. And a whole bunch can’t go through together. You must go through one at a time.
 
That's the way it is with a narrow gate. You don't come to the kingdom of Christ in groups. The Jews believed hey, we're in the kingdom, we're all on the road together, we all came through together based on Abrahamic heritage, based on Jewish ancestry, based on circumcision, we're all here together.
 
And I think there are people who think that they're on the right road to heaven, they got on when they got to church, they came to church, we're all in the church and the whole church got on together. Our family is Christian. We all love the Lord down where I work. 
 
Listen: there are no groups coming through the turnstile into heaven. You go through all alone. Salvation is individual.
 
When one believes it may influence another to believe but everyone's salvation is exclusive and intensely personal. It admits only one at a time.
 
Let me show you something else:
 
You must enter, you must enter the narrow gate, you must enter alone.
 
And listen to this one: you must enter with great difficulty.
 
Now I know that shocks some people. Because we hear all the time that getting saved is easy. All you have to do is just believe, sign on the dotted line, walk the aisle, raise your hand, go to the altar, whatever. And we've made it easy. The only thing is, when we get done the people aren't on the right road because they didn't come through the narrow gate. Now without shocking you too much I believe it's very, very difficult to be saved.
 
Let me show you why:
 
It says at the end of verse 14, regarding the narrow gate and regarding the narrow way, "Few there be that find it."
 
The first implication is that you're not even going to know it's there unless you're looking. The Old Testament prophet said, "You'll find Me," says God, "when you search for me with all your heart."
I don't believe anybody ever slipped and fell into the Kingdom of God. I don't believe it's easy. That's cheap grace, easy believism. That's the revivalist's approach, raise your hand, walk the aisle, sign the card and you're in. “Few there by that find it” implies that you've got to look for it and that you have to search for it.
 
Let me take it a step further:
 
Look with me at Luke 13 and I'll show you a verse that will really shock you.
 
Luke 13:
 
Jesus, in verse 22, is going through the cities and villages teaching, He came toward Jerusalem.  And then as a result of His ministry it was apparent to the people with Him that not everybody was responding as they thought they should. It's always hard for us to understand why people don't respond to Christ.
 
And so one of them said to Him in verse 23, "Lord, are there few that are saved?"
 
Apparently it was his observation that not many people were responding. 
 
Look at Jesus response in verse 24.
 
He answers by anticipating their follow-up question. The answer is “Yes”, and the anticipated follow-up question would be, “Why?”
 
 
Why are there few who are saved? "Because you must strive to enter in at the narrow gate."
 
And the word “strive” is the word from which we get our word “agonize”.
 
In other words, the Lord says it is an agonizing to enter in at the narrow gate. And there are many who think they want in, but when they realize the cost of discipleship, they aren’t going to go in at all. And the result is there are few who are really saved. 
 
See, it's difficult to get saved. Why?
 
Number one because you've got to be seeking. And there are maybe many who are seeking but when they find out what it costs to strive to enter they're not willing to do that.
 
Listen, Christianity doesn't come by walking an aisle. You don't become a Christian in some cheap and easy fashion. In Matthew 11 and verse 12 there’s almost a violence in the entrance into the Kingdom. In Luke 16:16 the Lord said, "Every man who comes into the Kingdom presses his way into the Kingdom."
 
Now this is not what you hear but this is what Jesus said. The Kingdom is to those who seek it with all their hearts. The Kingdom is to those who strive, who agonize to enter it, whose hearts are shattered over their sinfulness. Who mourn in meekness, who hunger and thirst and unquenchably satisfied. Long for God to change their life.
 
It's not for the people who come along in a cheap way and want Jesus without any alteration of their living.
In John 16:33 he said, you mark it right now in this world you will have tribulation. It's never easy to become a Christian because you've got all hell against you.
 
I believe that one of Satan's most pervasive lies is it's easy to become a Christian, it's easy. But it's not easy. It's a very narrow gate. You go through all alone and you go through agonizing all the way over your sinfulness.
 
Here’s something else: 
 
You must enter, you must enter the narrow gate, you must enter alone, you must enter with difficulty and
 
you must enter naked.
 
You can't go through a turnstile with luggage. Have you ever noticed that? The narrow gate is the place where you strip off all of self and self righteousness and sin and immorality and everything, you unload it or you don't come through it.
 
Think about the rich young ruler. He came to the gate, he searched, he found Jesus and he said what do I need to do to enter the Kingdom? I've come to find out, I've been searching. I want to be in the Kingdom.
 
The Lord went right to the heart of the problem and said go take everything you have, sell it and give it to the poor. Jesus hit him right at his suitcase. He was trying to get through the strait gate with the baggage of his riches in one hand, and the suitcase of self-righteousness in the other.
And he couldn't get through and the Bible says he went away sorrowing. He had sought but he wasn't willing for the selfless, self-denying, agonizing over sin and the stripping to nakedness that is necessary to enter the gate.
 
I think it's wonderfully expressed by the Lord in Matthew 18:3 where He says, "Except you become as a little child you can't enter the Kingdom." What is it that marks a little child? It is utter dependency, utter dependency.
 
Saving faith is not just an act of the mind; it is a stripping of the self, in utter nakedness. It is a beating of the breast, - Lord, be merciful to me a sinner. And I believe the Lord here is dealing with the danger of an easy salvation. Just come to Jesus. It's so easy. Just believe. All you've got to do is believe. Pray a little prayer. There's nothing wrong with believing, nothing wrong with praying a prayer but those things do not bring true salvation when they occur in a vacuum. We are nothing and have nothing to commend ourselves to God.
 
You must enter, you must enter the narrow gate, you must enter alone, you must enter with difficulty, you must enter with nakedness and
 
You must enter with repentance.
 
You don’t come through unless your heart is repentant over sin, turning from sin to serve the living God. When John the Baptist was preparing a people to receive the Messiah they were coming and they were being baptized because they wanted to have their sins cleansed.
Anyone in a Jewish context knows that the preparation for the coming of Messiah was the purging of the heart of its sinfulness.
 
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, that great preacher said, "You and your sins must separate or you and your God will never come together. Not one sin," he said, "may you keep, they must all be given up, they must be brought out like Canaanites kings from the cave and be hanged up in the sun."
 
We turn from sin to God, there must be repentance.
 
Finally, you must enter the narrow gate alone with difficulty, naked, repentant and
 
in utter surrender to Christ.
 
I do not believe that a person can be regenerated as Christ indicates it here by simply adding Jesus Christ to their list of activities. I don't believe that salvation is addition, I think salvation is transformation.
 
The whole message of I John is that if you are truly redeemed it will manifest itself in a transformed life where sin is confessed, where obedience is characteristic, where love is made manifest. Salvation is marked by a changed life.
 
Jesus even said -I can tell My true disciples for they obey My word. They obey My word. Somebody says, "Well, I'm a Christian" and there's no sign of obedience in their life they may think they are a Christian but they got on the wrong road. Sure it was marked heaven and sure it may have been marked Jesus but it isn't the right road.
 
A narrow, narrow gate.
 
Now in contrast there is a wide gate. We don't need to say much about it it's obvious by contrast.
 
What about the wide gate? Well, everybody can get on together. Nothing individual about it. No self-denial. You can bring all your baggage, your sin, all your immorality, all your lack of repentance, your lack of commitment to Christ.
 
All that stuff won’t fit through the narrow gate, but the wide gate is easy-access.
 
A West Indian who had chosen Islam over Christianity said this; "My reason is that Islam is a noble, broad path. There is room for a man and his sins on it and the way of Christ is far too narrow." That's the choice.
 
Now two gates lead to two ways. What are the two ways?
 
There is the broad way, verse 13, and there is the difficult or hard or the pressed or confined way, verse 14.
 
Now look at the broad way. Once you've come in the wide gate, it's easy living, man. There's lots of room. There’s lots of company. You can just stroll and roam and visit and party. No rules, no morality is particularly binding. There's room for diverse theology. There's tolerance of every conceivable sin. Just as long as you love Jesus. Or as long as you're religious. There are no curbs, there's no limits. There are no boundaries. All the desires of the fallen heart are fed on that road.
There's no need for a beatitude attitude. There's no need for humility. There's no need to study the word of God. There's no need for hard, internal moral standards. You can just go along for the ride. No need to be concerned with doctrine. That’s too dogmatic. It's a very easy road to travel. 
 
But the tragedy of it all is, as the Proverb says it, "There is a way which seems right to man but the end is death." It's the broad way.
 
Now in stark contrast to that there is a difficult way, verse 14.
 
Maybe your Bible says "narrow" or “hard”. A good translation is a “constricted” way. It literally means to press together, to be confined. It's like a narrow path on a cliff with sheer drop-offs on either side. 
 
That's why Paul says in Ephesians 5, you must walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. Why? Because it's a very narrow way. 
 
So when you come through this gate, and get on this road, you'd better take stock of what you're getting in to.  
 
In Luke 14:25, you find a huge crowd following Jesus, and turned and said “If you're going to follow Me you ought to know some things: if you don't hate your father, your mother your wife, your children your brothers your sisters and your own life, you can't be My disciple.”
 
That is generally not included in the evangelism training courses we offer. 
 
Try that on somebody the next time you're going to share the gospel with them. You want to be a Christian, alright, hate your mother, your father, your sister, your brother, make it as hard as you possibly could be made, you're going to have to step out of the crowd, you're going to have to say goodbye to everybody you love or you can't even be My disciple, and then you're going to have to pick up a cross and live a crucified life.
 
Try preaching that at the next revival and see how many come down the aisle. You know who'd come down the aisle? The people who should come, who want to make the right commitment.
 
And Jesus went on to illustrate this. "For which of you intending to build a tower doesn't sit down first and count the cost." No man is dumb enough to build something without analyzing what it's going to cost him.
 
Or what king in the world is going to go to war without analyzing how his troops stack up against the enemy.
 
So, likewise, verse 33, "Whosoever he is of you that forsaketh not all that he hath cannot be My disciple."
 
Boy, Jesus really drew a hard line. If you're not willing to say no to everything and to say I will, as God enables me, walk that narrow walk, knowing full well that you cannot do it on your own by your own achievement but knowing that God will give you grace upon grace to do it in your weakness through His strength you're willing to live that way, then you're coming illegitimately to Him.
 
It’s the difficult road. It's hard, it's pressed, it's confined. 
 
You say, well, it sounds awful. Well, before you make up your mind, remember there are
 
3. Two Destinations.
 
Matthew 7:13-14
 
There is the broad way that leads to destruction and there is the narrow way which leads to life.
 
There's the way of life and the way of death as Jeremiah said it, as Joshua said it, as Elijah said it, as Moses said it. It's the same thing, the way of life the way of death.
 
The Lord says that life ends up in one of two places. It’s either destruction or life. The word destruction here simply refers to ultimate eternal judgment in hell, everlasting torment. And all religions in the entire world, apart from the religion of divine accomplishment in Christ will end up in the same place...destruction.
 
It's easy to go that way, it's easy to travel and keep all the stuff you want. It's easy to walk along because there's no standard. But man does it get tough at the end. There are no restrictions and it's a party, but it ends up in hell.
 
On the other hand, the narrow way is going to open up into eternal bliss. The broad way narrows down into a terrible pit. The narrow way opens up into the fullness of an unspeakable, everlasting, unclouded fellowship of joy with God that we can't imagine.
And the choice is yours. Consider the destination because you're going to spend forever there.
 
And how will men choose?
 
The final point, there are two crowds, two gates, two ways, two destinations and
 
4. Two Crowds.
 
The way that is wide, verse 13, many there go in that way.
 
The way that is narrow, verse 14, and few find it.
 
That's really amazing. Jesus says “Most people are on the wrong road.”
 
People sometimes ask, "Do you think that there will be more people in heaven or hell?" Jesus gives the answer right here: many vs. few.
 
You go back to the Old Testament and you'll find that there was always a remnant of believing people. The one time in God's redemptive history that seems to be unique is in the tribulation, according to Revelation chapter 7 verse 9 it says there will be an innumerable number of Gentiles redeemed out of every people, tribe and tongue and nation and that the whole nation of Israel will be redeemed as well.
 
There may be a unique kind of evangelism response in the tribulation that is going to bring a great mass of the world's population to respond to Christ. But for this time and this age the overwhelming evidence is  few, few, few, few, few because men would rather do it their own way. 
They love their darkness. They would rather believe in themselves.
 
Later in verse 22 Jesus introduces us to this cwod of many: 
 
Many will say to me on that day, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name and in Thy name have cast out demons and in Thy name done many wonderful works?" Sounds so good. "And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you, depart from Me ye that work iniquity."
 
What a shock. The many on the broad road are going to find out that that wasn't the road to heaven after all; the door will be shut in their faces forever.
 
Listen, the way is narrow but I'm happy to announce it's wide enough to take in the chief of sinners. And you’ve got to make a choice. 
 
A letter was written to the Melbourne Daily Paper after a Billy Graham Crusade some years back. This is what the man who wrote the letter said:
 
"After hearing Dr. Billy Graham on the air, viewing him on TV and reading reports and letters concerning him and his mission I am heartedly sick of the type of religion that insists my soul and everyone else's needs saving, whatever that means. I have never felt that I was lost, nor do I feel that I daily wallow in the mire of sin although repetitive preaching insists that I do. Give me a practical religion that teaches gentleness and tolerance, that acknowledges no barriers of color or creed. That remembers the aged and teaches children of goodness and not sin.
If in order to save my soul I must accept such a philosophy as I have recently heard preached I prefer to remain forever damned."
 
And he signed his name.
 
Well he made his choice. 
 
And that's the choice everyone must make. You either invent a nice little religion that fits you or you take the truth of God and accept it.
 
That's the choice you make. One gives life, the other death.
 
Let's pray.
 
 
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